by Courtney Chapman, Contributor
Yoga has been around for over 5,000 years and was used in ancient India as a practice to connect to divine energy or Krishna consciousness. The term yoga means to “to unify” or “to yoke”. Practitioners, known as yogis, would devote their entire lives to learning the perfection of yoga. However, the more popularized versions of yoga in the Western world don’t exactly teach the perfection of yoga for the same purposes of the yogis, but they do serve a great mental, spiritual, and physical benefit to those who practice them. The whole system of yoga focuses on three things: breathing exercises (pranayama), postures (asanas), and meditation.
When I first started practicing yoga, I thought there was just one yoga practice and all I had to do was buy one of those DVDs and have at it. But, there are many techniques that cater to different spiritual and physical needs. If you’re looking for deep relaxation and meditation, restorative yoga might be a good fit for you. If you’re looking for something more intense, Bikram or Astanga will definitely get you sweating. When you first start with a yoga technique, ask yourself what are the areas you want to work on. Also be sure that you start with a level of yoga you can keep pace with. Don’t overexert yourself.
- Purpose- Hatha yoga is a good system for beginners who want to learn more about the different postures and movements. The style is generally slow-paced with gentle movements that incoporate a lot of breath work (pranayama)
- Benefits- Relieves stress, improves your breathing, and provides low-impact exercise
- Good for- Beginners or individuals wanting to learn simple postures
The name implies it all: yoga that restores your well-being. Restorative yoga is a good relaxation techniques that involves deep breathing exercises and postures.
- Purpose- Restorative yoga is used to help individuals connect with their minds and bodies in relaxing postures and deep breathing exercises. Individuals can expect working with different props and also poses that open up the chest area for breath work
- Benefits- Relieves stress, improves breathing, and provides low-impact exercise
- Good For- Beginners or individuals who want to relax after a long day
Vinyasa yoga is a branch of Hatha yoga that involves similar beginner poses and breath work. However, Vinyasa focuses more on Sun Salutation, a series of 12 poses that work to align the breath with each movement.
- Purpose- To align the breath with each movement and to strengthen the muscles
- Benefits- Strengthens and tones muscles, improves flexibility, and relieves stress, reduces risk for high blood pressure, type II diabetes, and heart disease
- Good for- Beginners and intermediates wanting to strengthen their bodies
Kundalini yoga incorporates breathing, meditation, chanting (mantras), mudras, postures, and the chakra system. The Sanskrit word Kundalini means “coiled” or “wrapped” and this type of yoga is meant to tap into the coiled energy at the base of the spine. Through movements and breathing, the energy is worked through each chakra until it reaches the 7th chakra or crown chakra at the top of the head.
- Purpose- To tap into the coiled energy at the base of the spine through movements, breathing, and meditation. Used to unleash the amazing potential in each one of us. Works a lot with the spine and core
- Benefits- Kundalini is more of a spiritual practice that works with raising your vibrational state and consciousness. It also improves mental clarity, reduces stress and anxiety, depression, and more. Since it works with your spine and core, it also strengthens your body, increases flexibility, balance, and endurance.
- Good for- beginners through advanced wanting to incorporate the more spiritual side of yoga and tapping into their energy centers
Bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga, has become one of the more common yoga styles. Popularly known to be practiced in a 95-100 degree room, it incorporates 26 poses and is usually good for beginners.
- Purpose- To flush out toxins, improve stamina, proper alignment, and deeply stretch out the muscles
- Benefits- Cleanses body, improves stamina and flexibility, and helps speed up recovery from injuries
- Good for- beginners to advanced, individuals with physical injuries
Astanga yoga is more intense and fast-paced and usually focuses on eight limbs. This is another style that incorporates the more spiritual side of yoga.
- Purpose- To improve one’s spiritual self and to build up stamina
- Benefits- Relieves stress, aids in weight loss, and improves coordination
- Good for- Intermediate to advanced; fit individuals who want to maintain strength and stamina and also work on spiritual growth
There are other styles of yoga that stem from the ones listed above like Power yoga, Iyengar yoga, and Anusura yoga. If you’re a beginner, try to start off with something simple like Hatha or Vinyasa and work your way up to other styles and techniques. Decide if you want to incorporate the more spiritual side of yoga and try a style that incorporates it like Kundalini or Astanga. Yoga is such a great form of exercise and strength training so you should definitely take advantage of its benefits! Remember to consult your physician before you begin any exercise or weight loss regimen to make sure it’s a right fit for you. Namaste!
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Courtney Chapman is the founder and contributor of Holistic Ebony. Holistic Ebony is a website dedicated toward spreading awareness about holistic health, meditation, cultural issues, and more.
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